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Published: 30 Aug 2005
|Tshabalala-Msimang: Conference of Retired Nurses (30/08/2005)|
| Date: 30/08/2005
Source: Department of Health
Title: Tshabalala-Msimang: Conference of Retired Nurses
Speech by Minister of Health Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at the Conference of Retired Nurses, Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour and privilege to welcome all the distinguished guests especially the retired nurses present here today. It has always been my wish to reach out to as many nurses as possible to celebrate with them their selfless contribution to the population of South Africa.
I wish to express our sincere appreciation for the sterling work and contribution to improving the health of our population over many years. I am always heartened to find that, despite many challenges facing us, nurses are dedicated to providing good quality health services. Despite the problems created by the apartheid health policies, the nursing profession did not compromise its objective of providing the best possible care.
One of the challenges from the past was lack of recognition for the efforts that the nurses put into their work of serving our communities. When I became the Minister of Health, I immediately set up a team to explore a possibility of establishing a national recognition award specifically for nurses. We then established the "Cecilia Makiwane Nurses Recognition Award". The first award ceremony was held in 2002 and our President, Thabo Mbeki graced this occasion. It was really a momentous occasion in which we celebrated outstanding contributions by nurses throughout the country.
During the award ceremony held in November 2003, the Department of Health went a step further to recognise 20 nurses who left South Africa to assist the Tanzanian Government after its independence when the British pulled out the country. The history of those nurses was not well known in our country. I am glad that we managed to bring together the remaining 14 from that group to honour them for their sacrifice. We brought them here from as far away as Britain, Tanzania and Botswana.
Today, we are extending this recognition to you as retired nurses. We want to say thank you for all the hard work and service rendered to our people, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. Some of you worked under very difficult circumstances created by the previous government. There are a number of challenges facing nurses and the nursing profession today. We therefore feel that as the Department we need to share with you some of them so that together we can chart the way forward.
While most nurses are committed to serving our people, there are few reported cases of nurses and other health professionals ill-treating patients. We view these cases very seriously. We therefore feel that there is a need for strong mentorship programme to support the young nurses who are joining the profession. In isiZulu we say, "Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili". As you have been through this journey, we feel that you can make significant contribution to this programme. I am sure all of us will gain from you on how we need to address some of the challenges facing us today.
As retired nurses, you are well aware of the tendencies that seem to erode the practice of quality nursing care. What can be done to address this challenge? Are any of the role models present here today, in a position to contribute towards rectifying the situation?
Nursing has always been known as a caring profession. Linked with the democratic values that characterises our society today, the nursing practice must remain guided by the values of quality, respect and accountability to the communities we serve. Protecting the dignity of those under our care, promoting respect for individuals and honouring the diverse backgrounds, cultural and religious beliefs of patients and their families should form the basis of the nursing profession.
We should be sensitive to individual needs and give support and recognition to encourage professional and personal development. Since the essence of the nursing profession is nurturing and caring, it is important that we work together to ensure that this essence does not disappear. Amongst us today we have nurses that have dedicated their lives to improving nursing through teaching, serving and conducting research that enriches the profession. Can the nation still have access to this repository of knowledge to use it for the young generation of nurses?
I am convinced that we can find ways of re-invigorating that passion in nursing. This conference should come up with clear proposals how this can be done. We will then discuss these proposals with other stakeholders in the nursing profession including the South African Nursing Council so that they can be turned into a workable national mentoring programme. I am confident that as retired with decades of experience, you still possess enough energy and passion that can help inspire enthusiasm in the younger generation of nursing profession and its leadership.
Nursing is a life-long commitment and way of life, demanding that we remain accountable to our patients, communities and to each other for our professional practice and conduct. The department has a major responsibility of creating an environment conducive for nurses to abide by the ethos of their profession.
The department is actively addressing the challenges faced by nursing services including, in particular the heavy workload caused by shortage of personnel. You will remember that a few years ago, there was a decrease in the number of nursing colleges at provincial level and this led to a significant reduction in the number of nurses trained. This situation was further compounded by the increase in the number of those nurses who leave to work overseas.
The National Health Council, which is a structure made up of the Minister and the MECs for Health from all provinces, has resolved that the Department increase the number of nurses on training. Some of the measures that should be taken in this regard include reintroducing the training of enrolled nurses in the current nursing colleges. This category of nurses should bring a lot of relief to professional nurses who are currently overstretched.
We are also going to reopen some of the nursing colleges that were closed down in the past to improve our training output. We are aware that as a consequence of cutting back on training and closure of these nursing colleges, the academic staff also left. Our efforts are therefore to also recruit back to the service, tutors and clinical facilitators. This weekend, I will be addressing South African nurses who are working in Britain, responding to their request for me to meet with them. Many have expressed their willingness to come back home and join the public health sector. I am also aware that there is an increasing number of those who left for the private health sector who wish to rejoin the public health sector.
This means that on our side as the department, we have to ensure that there are no obstacles to these fellow professionals coming back into the public health sector. I am confident that we will succeed in bringing back home our own. Last week Thursday the Nursing Bill was tabled in the National Assembly. Indeed this is a course for celebration as it signals the outcome of three years of hard work by the Department and our social partners in developing progressive legislation that seeks to advance government's cause to provide quality health care to the poorest of the poor.
For the first time, this Bill makes provision for the introduction of community service for nurses. This should contribute significantly to our efforts to ensure equitable distribution of nurses to meet the health needs of our communities.
The Bill goes further and seeks to align Nursing Education to the mainstream of education by making sure that Nursing Education programmes are registered through the National Qualification Framework. This essentially means that, unlike in the past, nurses can gain recognisable credit and retain them for future studies. This will do away with the old-fashioned and time-consuming processes of repeat of programmes by nurses who wish to further their studies.
I would like to conclude by proposing that, with the help of the MECs and Heads of Departments in the provinces; we should find ways to bring you together at provincial level to further explore the best foam of engagement amongst ourselves. This conference should discuss the possibility of establishing a retired nurses' forum which should facilitate this engagement.
We need your contribution in improving the caring ethos of nursing. I have no doubt that you will support us in this regard. On our side, we will ensure that this does not put strain on you because you must, after decades of hard work, enjoy your retirement!
Issued by: Department of Health
30 August 2005